Kanye West may very well be on the road to redemption after his, shall we say, “awkward” 2018, with his Sunday Services touring the country leading up to the release of his latest album, Jesus Is King, this Friday (supposedly). Kanye isn’t the first rapper to look to the Lord for his salvation; DMX, who graced Kanye’s Sunday Services with one of his patented, passionate prayers, and Kanye’s hero Mase are just two examples among many of rappers who traded in rhyme books for Bibles and recording booths for lecterns in the pulpit.
And while it should take a lot more than a (hopefully) great, gospel-tinged album to get him back into Black America’s good graces (it won’t), the theme of spirituality isn’t new to Kanye. Longtime fans — i.e. the ones who were listening to Kanye before the “Taylor Swift incident” — will remember that Kanye’s first few forays into the gospel sound weren’t repentant grasps at his dwindling public approval, but truly risky outpourings of his heartfelt beliefs. When Kanye sampled the ARC Choir’s “Walk With Me” on his debut album The College Dropout, he faced a possibly hostile reception; as he says on the track itself, “They say you could rap about anything except for Jesus.”
So now, he’s apparently coming back full circle. While we aren’t completely sure what his new album will sound like, it does appear he’ll once again draw inspiration from the gospel influences that once marked him as a groundbreaking rebel. Now, gospel may very well be his saving grace after he spent nearly 12 months chipping away at the goodwill he’d built up since putting out My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — his first project to function as a mea culpa, but clearly not his last. Whatever his use of gospel says about him now, it has always functioned as a window into his state of mind, telling us Kanye is — and how he sees himself. So, what is the gospel according to Kanye? Let’s take a look.